|Founder of NewsBasis working to differentiate his service from HARO and Profnet
When something new is announced, it’s human nature to try immediately to compare it to something that already exists, to help people classify it in their minds. When you tell journalists and PR pros you’re creating a service that will help them connect with each other for stories and research, you’re playing to an even tougher crowd.
That’s why Darryl Siry, founder of NewsBasis, has his work cut out for him.
“My job is going to be to make sure people understand what the broader aspect will be. The best way to do that is to let people use it and find out what it can do for them,” Siry said.
One of the biggest differences between NewsBasis and other journalist-PR networks is that users will have access to a sidebar tab on news stories that alerts a reader to a footnote from a source. That means when a reporter researching a subject finds an article, he or she also may find a note from other sources offering a different point of view or additional facts.
“Today, the process of e-mail and phone is all inbound, I’m trying to change it so the journalist can find the right point of view at the right time, and that benefits the company,” Siry said. “On the company side, it’s a no-brainer. For the journalists, it’s really about convincing them they can use this system and it will make their lives easier.”
Convincing busy reporters and public relations practitioners that they need to sign up for one more networking service won’t be easy though.
When The New York Times recently published an article about the launch of NewsBasis, the reporter cemented the comparison with Help a Reporter Out(HARO) and PR Newswire’s Profnet into a lot of minds. When word spreads about NewsBasis’ keyword news alert system, the comparisons to existing search services—both paid and free—are bound to occur. Siry said the comparisons aren’t frustrating, because he expected them. Still, it does create some additional hurdles for the start-up company.
“There is obviously some overlapping functionality that has caused people to focus on that comparison, but I also think anyone who uses HARO or Profnet would naturally also be a user of NewsBasis, but for different reasons,” Siry said.
It’s an interesting perspective from a guy who fell into the world of journalism and public relations. Siry has an economics degree and worked as a management consultant handling financial strategy. His career path pulled him into a marketing and communications role for Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co. and then Tesla Motors, where he served as senior vice president of Sales, Marketing and Service. Since 2009, he’s been a contributor to Wired Digital, writing a weekly column.
“NewsBasis came from my experience at Tesla,” Siry said. “The Tesla brand was done primarily on the basis of media relations. There was no budget for advertising or attending events. Still, we were able to build a pretty strong brand using just media relations.”
Siry noted that during his work for Tesla, he noticed that most of the mechanisms for a company to deliver their message were “pretty clumsy and inefficient.”
“Typically, you’re just pitching a message that’s important to you, but rarely will it reach a journalist who is actually working on that issue at that moment,” he said. “Plus, the attention span and the availability of journalists to have a conversation on background is growing increasingly shorter. They are all much more focused on the story they need right now. We are developing a tech platform where you can better match company perspectives with journalists when it’s relevant to them and when they need it.”
Perhaps the biggest, and most controversial, difference between NewsBasis and other services will be in the next phase, when journalists and sources could find themselves graded by their peers and colleagues from the other side of the coin. Siry is quick to point out, however, that he does not intend to create a five-star rating system.
“If you’re a journalist, you know that in the practice of your trade, you are going to have some people who won’t like you because you wrote something that wasn’t favorable,” Siry said. “Rather than a ratings system for journalists, it might be a way to share your experience about what was good or bad about working with that journalist.”
That phase of the system is on the company’s radar but may take time to be implemented. For now, Siry and his team are busy reviewing applications from thousands of potential users.
“I don’t want someone signing up as a journalist that’s not. I don’t want people who are misrepresenting themselves. I don’t want people who I’m concerned would be using the system to be spamming,” Siry said.
Siry said he also will have mechanisms to deal with people who “aren’t being helpful.”
The NewsBasis team isn’t aggressively marketing the service yet, but they’re bound to get there. The free beta period won’t last forever, and the for-profit corporations and public relations agencies that Siry sees as potential customers will have to be convinced it is worth their investment.
Siry noted that word-of-mouth is one of the biggest components of marketing the service, both now and in the future.
“One nice thing about working with media and journalists is word gets around!”